Four of ten NCAA major conference meets are out of the way this week after a dizzying weekend of fast swimming. We count down our top 10 swims of the week.
It’s always hard to pare down these lists, and we had several top contenders just outside our top 10, including the fourth-ever sub-19 swimmer from a mid-major school, and a couple of swimmers ranked #4 all-time.
#10: Three-Person Battle Royale For ACC 200 Breast Title
The women’s ACC 200 breast was notable for the times, but probably even more notable for the race. Two freshmen and a sophomore from one of the nation’s most heated school rivalries battled for the title, putting up the nation’s top three times this season by a wide margin. NC State’s Sophie Hansson went 2:05.59 for the win despite sitting third at the halfway point. That was a drop of six tenths. Virginia freshman Ella Nelson capped off a huge meet with a 2:05.68 for second, dropping 1.6 seconds and breaking the National Age Group record for swimmers in the 17-18 age group. Meanwhile fellow Virginia freshman Kate Douglass was 2:05.89, leading the first 150 and moving to #3 all-time in the 17-18 age group.
#9: Douglass’s IM Explosion to 1:51.36
It’s a second-straight appearance for UVA freshman Kate Douglass, who won the ACC 200 IM title in her first-ever individual event at ACCs. Douglass was 1:52.89 at mid-season, but cut a second and a half to go 1:51.36 for the win. That’s the 4th-fastest 200 IM ever swum, and puts her within seven tenths of the American record. It’s also a National Age Group record in the 17-18s and would have placed second at NCAAs last year.
#8: Nelson’s 49.70 Backstroke
Beata Nelson’s own track record probably hurts her standing here. The senior Nelson was 49.70 leading off (and completely carrying) Wisconsin’s 400 medley relay at Big Tens. That’s tied for the #4 swim of all-time, and Nelson now owns the 1st, 2nd and 4th-fastest swims in history in the event. Had she not swum American records of 49.67 and 49.18 last season, Nelson’s Big Tens swim would have been a hundredth off an American record. Her swim also allowed Wisconsin to be 2nd at Big Tens in the 400 medley relay despite their other legs ranking 6th (breaststroke), 4th (butterfly) and 5th (free) in the conference.
#7: Casas’ 1:37.20 in 200 Back
Texas A&M’s sophomore Shaine Casas cut a full second from his best time in the 200 back, breaking Ryan Lochte‘s SEC meet record and moving to #4 all-time in that race. Casas didn’t even swim this race at NCAAs last year, but is coming off of a breakout summer in the long course 100 back. Casas leads the nation in this race now and his swim was the 6th-best in history, behind three Ryan Murphy races as well as one apiece by John Shebat and Austin Katz.
#6: Brown Goes 49.38 in Fly
Easily the fastest event in the women’s NCAA right now, the 100 fly is a slugger’s row of superstars. Tennessee senior Erika Brown won an early cross-country battle against Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil, going 49.38 to win the SEC title. (MacNeil was 49.42 to win Big Tens). Brown moves to the #3 performance of all-time, and is just a tenth off the NCAA record of 49.26. She owns the American record. Brown also gets major credit for two swims that didn’t make this list: a 21.03 in the 50 free and 45.83 in the 100 free, both ranking her as the #2 performer all-time.
#5: White’s Arrival With 1:48.1/1:48.0s in 200 Back
The big dropper of the year has been Alabama sophomore Rhyan White. Coming into the season, her best times were 1:53.54 in the 200 back and 52.08 in the 100 back. But at SECs, White blasted two of the fastest 200 backs in history, going 1:48.06 in prelims and 1:48.15 in finals. Those rank as the #6 and #7 swims in history in an event where the top performers of all-time have typically not put up multiple top-ranked swims. In fact, the top 10 swims in history come from 7 swimmers, and White joins Kathleen Baker as the only swimmer with multiple top-10 swims. White also cut her 100 back to 50.02.
#4: Auburn Hits #2 200 Free Relay All-Time
Auburn crushed the second-fastest 200 free relay of all-time early in the SEC Championships, going 1:25.41. The group of Julie Meynen (21.65), Claire Fisch (20.99), AJ Kutsch (21.15) and Robyn Clevenger (21.62) blew out the SEC field and joined some elite names on the all-time top relay list. The current American record-holding relay from Cal included Olympian Abbey Weitzeil. The #3-ranked team from Stanford (leapfrogged by Auburn) included Olympic champ Simone Manuel. Auburn’s crew showed outstanding depth, great improvements from previous seasons and very disciplined relay exchanges, all between 0.12 and 0.19.
#3: MacNeil’s 23.05 in 50 Back – Fastest Leadoff Ever
What is it with the Big Ten and relay leadoffs? Sophomore flyer Maggie MacNeil blew out the fastest 50 back leadoff split in history, going 23.05 on the front of Michigan’s 200 medley relay. Previously, the fastest swim on record was a 23.36 from NCAA backstroke champ and Olympian Rachel Bootsma. MacNeil’s split gave Michigan a lead of almost a full second from the field, and would provide about the same margin if she can do it again at NCAAs. Michigan went on to break the pool record despite having the field’s 7th best fly split.
#2: Former IMer Smith Smashes 500 Free Record
A year ago, Kieran Smith was a 200/400 IMer who crossed over into backstroke on day 4 of NCAAs. This year, Florida sophomore Smith posted the #4 200 free of all-time and crushed the American record in the 500 free by almost a second. Coming into the meet, Smith’s career-best 500 free was 4:16.96, set as a high schooler back in 2017. Smith went 4:14.55 in SEC prelims, then exploded with a 4:06.32 in finals to shatter records. The previous American record was 4:07.25, the previous NCAA record 4:08.19.
#1: Finke Obliterates Fastest Mile Ever
It’s hard to pass up a swim that took six seconds off the best previous swim in history. Florida sophomore Bobby Finke went 14:12.08 to win the SEC 1650 free. That’s 6.2 seconds better than former American record-holder Zane Grothe, and more than ten seconds better than former NCAA record-holder Clark Smith. Finke’s previous best was 14:23.01, set last year at SECs, and prior to that, he was 14:37 out of high school. Finke has a chance to take this record to extraordinary levels, and his current pace of time drops is nothing short of incredible.